Full Arms and Full Hearts

November 28, 2018

After a heartbreaking loss, a Brick Family welcomes two healthy babies, thanks to expert medical care

In 2014, Jillian Ortiz and her husband, Frank, were shocked to learn they were expecting twins. Carrying twins meant that her pregnancy was high-risk. So Jillian’s doctor, Ben Morgan, M.D., an OB/GYN at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, referred her to Paul Matta, D.O., a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Jersey Shore, for monitoring. A maternal-fetal medicine specialist is a high-risk pregnancy expert with additional education in diagnosing, monitoring and treating pregnancy complications in women and their unborn children.

Jillian’s pregnancy was proceeding smoothly until she experienced bleeding at 21 weeks. She went to the Emergency Department at Jersey Shore, where doctors determined she had low blood platelet levels, which could lead to blood clots and cause complications for her and the babies. She was admitted to the hospital for a blood transfusion and while in the hospital, her blood pressure skyrocketed.

Dr. Matta diagnosed Jillian with a rare but very serious condition called HELLP syndrome. “HELLP syndrome is thought to be on the severe spectrum of pre-eclampsia,” Dr. Matta says. “It damages the mother’s organs, such as the liver and kidneys, and can be life-threatening to the mother and baby. The condition can develop during the course of the pregnancy and is often not predictable or preventable.”

Unfortunately, the condition caused her to lose both babies and she was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit for kidney damage.

LIFE AFTER LOSS

Thanks to around-the-clock multidisciplinary medical care at Jersey Shore, Jillian slowly recovered. She was in the hospital for about a month before she was able to go home. It was a long road before she was well again.

Still, she and Frank hoped to grow their family, which included their daughter, Adrianna, now 12. Dr. Matta encouraged them to wait at least a year before trying to become pregnant again. About a year later, Jillian was expecting another baby, but the pregnancy ultimately ended in miscarriage. “After losing the twins and then experiencing another loss, there was a low point where we wondered whether or not this was going to happen for us,” Jillian says. But just a few months later, Jillian and her husband had conceived again.

Throughout her pregnancy, she frequently visited Dr. Matta as well as a team of other providers at Jersey Shore, including a nephrologist, hematologist and her obstetrician, Dr. Morgan, to make sure that she and the baby were staying well. Because of her medical history, she had to take a blood thinner medication throughout her pregnancy to prevent the formation of blood clots.

“Jillian had a higher risk of developing HELLP as well as other complications, such as pre-eclampsia, growth restriction and low fluid levels, so she required very close surveillance,” Dr. Matta says.

Happily, Jillian’s pregnancy went smoothly. In July 2017, she delivered a healthy baby girl, Annalise, at Jersey Shore on her due date. And just a few months later, she discovered she was expecting another baby. Jillian delivered a healthy baby boy, Andre, in July 2018.

A SUCCESS STORY

“There’s no question that what Jillian went through was devastating,” Dr. Matta says. “Ultimately, she’s an example of what’s possible when a multidisciplinary team works together to care for mom and baby in high-risk situations.”

“It’s been an emotional roller coaster,” Jillian says. “Losing the twins and nearly my own life was traumatic. I was incredibly nervous throughout both of my recent pregnancies, but the doctors, especially Dr. Matta, were very understanding. Knowing I had this team working together provided a lot of peace of mind. Even though I had a scary situation and history, they made me feel like I could get through it and have a healthy experience,” Jillian says.

Learn more about Maternal Fetal Medicine at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.